Mario Arrives to Mobile: What Does this Mean for the Industry?

At the Apple event last September 7 in California, USA, Nintendo chief game designer Shigeru Miyamoto announced to the world that Mario would be arriving to the iOS this coming December 2016, with an Android version right behind sometime in 2017. The Mario game comes in the form of a 2D endless runner titled Super Mario Run in which the famed plumber will be set in his familiar platformer world, but only he’s automatically running to the right side. The game can be played with only one hand, albeit with a lot of discomfort if played in the much bigger iPad. While the game isn’t exactly groundbreaking in terms of gameplay innovation, it’s a huge stance by Nintendo, which is primarily known for its handheld consoles – the very platform that mobiles are threatening to push aside permanently.

Actually, Nintendo’s foray into the mobile gaming industry was kicked off by its partnership with big-time Japanese mobile games company DeNA back in March 2015. And Nintendo’s blessing to allow its Pokemon characters to be handled by people outside the family, so to speak, paved the way for the meteoric rise of Pokemon Go (Nintendo didn’t have a direct hand in the game). These moves are all catered to bring back casual gamers, who all jumped ship when the true potential of mobile gaming was unlocked.

It’s no secret that the video game industry is just a copycat industry where companies usually follow what’s trending. So it’s actually not that hard to envision other big-name companies in the mold of Nintendo to follow suit in lending their popular intellectual properties (IPs) to the mobile gaming scene. But what does it really mean if popular IPs crosses over to mobiles, both for the big guns and the smaller indie developers?

For the big companies…

1.      More exposure to popular IPs

Okay, Mario is a bad example of a popular IP being introduced to a wider audience, because the character is already well-known around the world, even to non-gamers. But if companies like Activision, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft place more effort into bringing high-quality games based on their popular IPs – like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Assassin’s Creed, respectively – to mobiles, then they will be more exposed. And this could lead to even more people lining up to buy their games in consoles or PC, because, really, if you truly enjoyed their games in your mobile platform, wouldn’t you feel the slightest bit curious about the other games in the series?


2.      More money-grabbing potential

These companies are already making a boatload of money from Pre-Orders, Season Passes, Downloadable Content (DLC) Packs, Exclusive Bundles, and other post-release content, so imagine if they have full access to the in-game micro-transactions that’s typically present in most mobile games today. It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? More people playing very popular games translates to more people getting jealous of the content other people have, and that translates to even more money in the bank for these companies.

3.      Less chances for new IPs

Since their focus will now shift to milking their popular IPs as much as possible until you puke, they will be less inclined producing and trying out new ones. And that could lead to stagnation where the video game industry is simply littered with endless sequels, remakes, and reboots, quite similar to the current setup of Hollywood and movies. If it comes to that, no doubt interest will wane because nobody will have the heart to stomach a Final Fantasy XLIII or a Call of Duty: Black Ops 43.


4.      Quality of the main series may take a hit

If these big companies seriously put a lot of their resources into bringing their popular IPs to mobiles – like development teams and budget – then their games for consoles and/or PC might be watered down. Big-budget games are now the norm today, so if a recent installment of a popular IP is produced for consoles and/or PC that doesn’t quite hold up to its predecessors, expect a lot of backlash to come. It’s already getting harder and harder to please people today, what more if the games come out in half the quality than they’re used to, thanks to the allocation of resources to the mobiles front?

For small and indie companies…

1.      An opening in the non-mobiles scene

Small indie companies are finding it hard to penetrate the non-mobiles industry which is populated by more established companies mentioned above. For every Minecraft, there are countless other games that failed hard in swaying people’s attention from popular properties. But if the big companies become distracted and become overly focused on bringing their brand to mobiles, then there could be an opportunity for indie companies to break through and finally get their share of the spotlight in the consoles and PC scene.

2.      More money-grabbing potential (yes, same as above)

If big-name companies start getting into the in-game micro-transactions business, then it’s safe to assume that they will roll out ridiculous charges or prices for the items or services. But as has been proven before, a lot of people are very much willing to shell out large chunks of money to grab a shiny piece of armor that so few people can boast about. Of course, you don’t really expect indie companies to simply ignore this chance to raise their in-game charges to the level or at least close to the level that big companies are trotting out, do you? Yes, people will say that their games are not “popular” enough to warrant raised prices, but don’t expect them to hold that stance very long, especially if the in-game items or services are simply too enticing to pass up.


3.      New IPs will be overshadowed

This is perhaps the most obvious negative effect on indie companies if the big ones cross over to mobiles. Indie developers are now the primary source of new IPs, again no thanks to the reliance of big companies on their existing properties. And since games based on very popular properties will be like a lightning rod for people looking to join the bandwagon, less attention will be given to new IPs that will come out of the minds of indie developers. Worst of all, if the new IP carries the tiniest bit of resemblance to existing popular IPs – either in character design or gameplay – they will most likely be branded as “cheap imitations”, which is very unfair. And as mentioned above, the lack of new IPs might spell the doom for the industry as a whole, courtesy of stagnation.

4.      Even bigger competition

Okay, this one is most likely a given: big companies trying to eat the cake of small companies automatically translate to less chance for the latter to market their games. They’re not exactly equipped with the biggest of budgets to afford large-scale advertisement schemes. And their IPs don’t have the same royalty and recognition carried by popular IPs from big companies, so it’s going to take a lot of extra effort for them to convince people to look at their games. After all, casual gamers are most likely inclined to pick a game that is already popular and being played by a lot of people – it makes them “in” with the crowd.

app-storeOf course, it’s a bit difficult at the moment to exactly pinpoint the effects of popular IPs heading over to the mobile gaming scene. Some of the things above may prove to be true, while some may prove to be entirely erroneous. Alas, we still have to wait until more big companies place more serious commitment to bringing their popular IPs to the land of casuals – no, mobile ports are not counted.

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